Whether you're interested in expressing your creativity with a unique handmade prom gown or you hope to save some money on this expensive purchase, you don't need a lot sewing experience to make your own prom dress. Choosing a simple dress pattern allows you to create a gown you can be proud of, while showing off your style with your choice of fabric, embellishments, and accessories.
Tips on Buying Fabric
Once you've chosen a pattern for your gown, it's time to start customizing your look. Do you look best in a certain shade of red? Are you hoping to wow everyone with a funky print gown? Since you're making your own dress, the choice is entirely up to you. However, there are a few things to consider as you select your fabric:
Choose Materials Wisely
It is important to read the back of the pattern package to see which materials work best with the pattern you've chosen. The pattern envelope will suggest the type and amount of fabric, but you can choose the color and pattern from among those options.
Know Your Material
Make sure that you are familiar with the type of material you choose. Satin and chiffon can run and fray, and they slide around as you work. If you're set on one of these fabrics, talk to the associates at the fabric store for tips and consider getting help from an experienced friend.
Match Up the Nap
If you choose velvet fabric, be sure to match up the nap, or the way the fuzzy part leans. Both pieces should have the nap going the same way when you get ready to sew. You'll need more fabric for this reason, since you'll have some waste when you're cutting out the pieces.
Match Up the Prints on Printed Material
For print fabrics, be sure to match up the print whenever possible. This can seem tricky, but it really only involves paying attention to the seam allowance mentioned in the pattern and cutting your pieces so they match when the seam allowance is used. Try to get a continuous pattern, even across a seam.
Buy Extra Fabric
Always buy extra fabric. Your pattern will tell you how much you'll need, but add at least one extra yard. This may seem like a waste of money, but you'll be glad for the extra if you make a mistake. Often, when you go back to the fabric store, they may be cutting off a different bolt of the same fabric, resulting in a slightly different color.
Assemble Your Tools and Supplies
In addition to the fabric, you'll need a few more items to complete your prom dress. Be sure to have the following items on hand:
- Sewing machine you already know how to use
- Spool of thread to match your fabric
- Needle for hand sewing
- Sharp scissors for cutting your fabric and pattern
- Zipper, buttons, or hook and eye, as required by your pattern
- Marking wheel and tracing paper for marking the fabric
- Trims to embellish your gown
- Pins and fabric tape measure
- Seam ripper to take out mistakes or open your zipper casing
If you don't have all of these supplies, you can easily find them at your local fabric or craft store.
Take Your Measurements
Before you begin cutting out your pattern pieces, you'll need to make sure you have the correct measurements. Although you may know your dress size, it's best to follow the size guidelines listed on the back of your pattern. Sometimes, patterns are sized larger or smaller than your regular clothing. This is especially true if you're using a vintage dress pattern.
You can take your own measurements, but you'll get more accurate results if you have help. Ask your mother, sister, or a good friend to measure you and note the measurements on a piece of paper. Here's how to do it:
- Put on the undergarments you'll be wearing with your dress. If your bra has padding, make sure you are wearing that bra when you measure.
- Measure your bust at the fullest point, over the top of your bra.
- Measure your waist at the narrowest point, usually about an inch above your belly button.
- Measure your hips at the widest point.
- Take any other measurements requested by the pattern.
- Compare your measurements to the table on the back of the pattern. You may be between sizes. If so, choose the larger size. You can always take the dress in a little if you need to, but it's much harder to let it out.
Cut Out the Pattern and Fabric
After determining your size, you can cut out the pattern. Cut the pieces for the size of dress you are making, and then set each piece aside. When you've completed cutting out the prom dress pattern from the tissue paper, it is time to lay out the material and then pin the pattern to the material. Keep these tips in mind to help you make the most of your dress and materials:
- Follow the directions on the pattern exactly. The directions will tell you where the folds of the material should be and how to lay the pattern on the bias.
- It's extremely important to transfer all the lines and directions you see on the pattern pieces onto the fabric itself. These lines and directions will tell you how to assemble your dress.
- For best results, arrange your pattern pieces on the fabric starting in one of the corners. That way, you can minimize waste.
- After all of the pieces are arranged correctly, use sharp scissors to cut the pieces carefully. The sharper the scissors, the less chance you'll make an uneven cut that could cause problems later.
Sewing Your Prom Dress
After the pieces of the pattern are cut, follow the directions included with the pattern to decide which pieces will be sewn first to how to finish the seams. Every dress is different, so these instructions will be unique for your gown. These tips will help you make sure your dress looks like it was made by a professional:
- Don't skip any of these steps mentioned in the pattern. Even if you think you know what's next or have a better idea for the order, the steps are arranged the way they are for a reason.
- Take your time when sewing a prom dress. Rushing a project can lead to mistakes that are time-consuming to correct.
- Be sure to use the appropriate thread for the project and use the best needle setting for the material you are working with. The pattern will specify these requirements.
- It is important to check the fitting of your gown throughout the sewing project. Check sleeves (if any) to make sure they aren't too tight before sewing them onto the dress. When sewing the bodice, be sure the bust isn't too tight and that it falls at your natural waist.
- When you're ready to hem your dress, try it on with the shoes you will be wearing to the event. Then you can adjust the length accordingly.
Make It Yours
Although using a pattern takes care of the basic design for you, you can always add your own personal stamp with your choice of fabric and embellishments. Express your unique style with a dress you made yourself, and rest assured that no one else at prom will be wearing the same gown. You never know; this sewing project may even launch your career as the next great fashion designer.